Obama Budget Calls for $750 Million to Fight Over-Drugging of Foster Youths

The Obama Administration has proposed a massive federal program aimed at curbing the use of psychotropic medications to treat foster youths, an issue that appeared on the federal radar in 2011.

President Barack Obama included in his 2015 budget a plan for a 10-year plan that could allocate up to $750 million in federal dollars to “address over-prescription of psychotropic medications for children in foster care.”

The two-pronged plan focuses mostly on building the ability of state’s to treat foster youths without psychotropic drugs – or at least with less drugs – and then rewarding states for lowering reliance on the drugs.

The first part is a $50 million a year, five-year investment by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). That mandatory spending would “encourage the use of evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment of trauma and mental health disorders” among foster youth.

The second part is a $500 million Medicaid demonstration program that would provide performance-based Medicaid incentive payments to “improve care coordination and delivery for children and youth in foster care through increased access to evidence-based psychosocial interventions.”

National attention to the high rate of psych meds prescriptions for foster youths was fueled by the shocking 2009 suicide of a seven-year-old in Florida named Gabriel Myers. The little boy had been prescribed a number of potent mind-altering drugs during his childhood, and hung himself at the home of his foster parents.

A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reviewed nearly 100,000 foster children in five states – Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas – found thousands of children on psychiatric medications, many at higher doses than are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hundreds of these children were prescribed five or more drugs at the same time, a mixture of medications that has never been proven effective and which significantly increases the potential for side effects.

The GAO recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services “consider endorsing guidance for states on best practices for overseeing psychotropic prescriptions for foster children.”

The ACF did convene behavioral health leaders from around the country to discuss the issue in 2012, but HHS has yet to issue a formal guidance.

Just before the GAO report was released in 2011, HHS leaders also sent a letter to state Medicaid and child welfare directors instructing them to begin reporting on psychotropic use to ACF in an Annual Progress and Services Report. The report is supposed to include “comprehensive descriptions of procedures and protocols planned or in place to ensure the safe and appropriate use of psychotropic medications,” according to the letter.

The HHS letter highlighted the fact that nearly half of foster youth in group or residential homes “are taking at least one psychotropic,” and that the “majority of children in foster care receiving psychotropic medications have multiple prescriptions.”

There is a dearth of information about how effective psychotropics are for kids, the letter says, and  “scant evidence of the effectiveness of treatment with multiple medications.”

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1212 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.


  1. Further instead of removing children in home parenting and family preservation service is more effective, empowering and costly, if you add up the cost of placing child. if you want to rescue a child save a family.

  2. Thank you and I applaude President Obama’s efforts and a clinican and an administrator I have had the opporuntunity to serve over-mediated forter children in variuos settings. Many time this overmedication left children incapaitated and interfered with learning, and the side effect complicated treatment and often resulted in additional problems. psychotropic drug have a profound life long impact on the developing brain and the brain is the master of all functioning throughout life. Many of the children that are drugged are grossly misdiagnosed. The trauma which in some cases accompanies child abuse exspecially sesx abuse, serious pyhsycial abuse and severe neglect and most certainly out of home placement causes symptoms associated with acute, chronic and complex trauma may closely mirror ADHD, and what is said to be Bipoloar in children. Misdiagnosing these children then drugging the and in many causes over drugging them, robs thier life of joy, a sense stability and contributes to mental health problems over the course of thier lives. Further statisitcs have shown that the larger number of children with child welfare intervention and placement expereince trading sex for food and drugs, end up homeless in the first six months of leaving the child welfare system, do not have high schiool diploma or GED’s, have early pregnancies or father children, are unemployed and upto 70-80 of these children end up in the human trafficking trade or in prision. This is true of several generations of children that I have later worked with in jails, drug treatment and mental health programs. These children more real tramua informed therapy and less or no drugs.

  3. Thank you Mr. Obama my children will be very happy about this. .. They hate taking medicine

  4. Iam vary impressed with this artcle.I have been saying this alot the cost of foster chilren’ Do you realise afoster parent cets 1200.00 amonth each kid and care takers get 600.00 amonth. it is abussiness.It advertised in the news paper for kids to be adoped and the case worker and dhs get a bonus.We had our great grandaughter taken away from uu for a single pat on the but as she through the remote for the tv out of anger. and they took heraway.she was heart brokenalso is on medication.zolofe and concerta. Do you are right about meds given to these kids.Thank you soooo much for the article. Some body is listento us millions of parents THANK YOU.

    • November is Adoption Month. Where they hold big parties and picnics to parade these children as if they were prize animals.. CPS/DHS needs to be completely obliterated or at the very least.. Take the Government Funding out of it and leave it up to the state!

  5. All four of my kids were put on medications. I would go see them and could not have conversations worth my kids because they were so out of it. Two of my kids are grown now and hate even taking a Tylenol. My one soon was on 19 pills a day and he was recently removed from the Potomac center because of the abuse and now they have him in jail. Yes that is right a mentally challenged child is in jail because he’s 19 but has the mental complexity of a14 year old. The state has custody of him and doesn’t have a place for him do they put him in jail and now who knows what is being done to him. I have nightmares every night over him and my other kids and I feel that there is no one trying to help me. I am so sick of the system.

    • My granddaughter upon arrival would be fine. They would take her in the back room and hold her for 20 minutes.. She would then come in glossy eyed, tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth and drooling. She would just sit in the corner for most of the visit.. These are the people in which are protecting our children/grandchildren.. All funded by the Government!

  6. Its a shame this little 7 year old child had to die by the hands of those that were suppose to be protecting him.This little child died with no one holding his hand to comfront him telling him all would be ok.Ever since this childs death he has haunted me in my dreams.It looks like he has haunted many others also.I pray this childs death was not in vein.That some good can come from this.If people could only be allowed to walk inside a hospital like HCA and just take one look at all the children that have been put on these drugs it would break their hearts.If they act out they get a shot.Some cant hold a spoon in their hand for shakeing so bad from the drugs.Children have paid to big of a price to stop now.Maybe some good will come out of this after all.

  7. My granddaughter was one of those children wrongfully removed from her loving home and given enough psychotropic medications for a 300 lb man at the age only of 3yrs old..

  8. Why doesn’t Obama just do away with the “Safe Family Act” and save the children, our social security, our tax dollars and the country trillions..

    You see, the Government pays CPS/DHS billions ($4,000 – $6,000 per child, per month) from Title IV Funding which is our social security. They take children from their loving homes, put them into a warehouse, drug them up and use them as lab rats for Big Pharma.

    Then, they use our tax dollars for Medicaid to pay the doctors to write the prescriptions for the children (lab rats) in the Foster Homes. The doctors spend maybe 15 minutes with a child and bills Medicaid for an hour. They can see a minimum of 4 children per an hour rather than just 1 child.

    So, now he is wanting to spend Billions more to treat the children in which we have paid to screw up

  9. Recently discussed foster child that has been off medicatin due to no medicaid and why she was on all this medication in the first place. No bipolar behavior. I an so concerned about everything requiring a drug.

  10. Have primary care doctors refer the child for proper evaluation before prescribing psych medication. My daughter was not a foster care child but it took fighting the insurance company to approve a neuro psych evaluation that finally gave us a proper diagnosis. Then we were then able to get to a medication combination. It’s a process but you have to advocate in the best interest of the child.

  11. The absurdity is the fact that government is PAYING for the drugging to begin with. It was called “chemical restraints” to be used on kids who aren’t happy about being seized from their homes.

    And then their Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) speaks presumptuously “In the Best Interest of the Child”, which he merely recites the insane lies the CPS agent wrote in her Petition.

    Leonard Henderson, co-founder
    American Family Rights
    “Until Every Child Comes Home

  12. Attention all tax payers. I hope you’re reading this. The government spends your money to wrongfully removed children to foster care, then needs to spend MORE to de-tox them from over medication!

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